Chapter 1 ~ Trapped
My fingers hovered over the button that would shape the next few months of my life, my eyes glued to the computer screen. One click, that's all I had to do. Biting my lip, my finger twitched, not pressing hard enough to make my purchase final. Coward.
I was practically vibrating in my chair, my wolf pacing restlessly as she had been for months now. A few more months and I was sure I'd start to go crazy. My control was slipping, instincts driving me now more than logic, fur demanding I listen to what it demanded of me. The scorn I would face was holding me back, that and my own fear of the unknown. I loved the pack, I really did but I wanted to experience more before I tied myself down here. Was that so wrong?
I thought back to my conversation with my Alpha only the day before. He'd asked me if I was sure and I'd said yes without thought. That was what everyone kept saying, that I hadn't thought things through. But I had thought. I'd spent years now trying to push away the growing restlessness, the part of myself that urged me to walk away from the pack. I'd come back, that's what I'd said and I was sure it was the only thing that had made my Alpha agree to let me go. Yet I wasn't sure that was true. Part of my own hesitancy to leave was because I was scared I'd decide I loved it so much out there that I wouldn't want to come back.
"Fenna, are you going to come help me finish tea?" my mother called from downstairs.
A whoosh of air left me and I closed down the page, spinning around in my chair. Once more I'd lost the nerve. Paris would have have to wait until I confronted my family and convinced them my leaving would be the best thing in the world. I'd told my friends first and had to spill the truth to Raeghan who cornered me outside her father's office. She might have been younger than me, but already she was proving to be the true child of an Alpha. My sort of cousin took the news better than I expected and she was sure that my family would be supportive.
There was a bigger chance of the world spinning backwards than there was of my mother and uncle happily urging me on my way with smiles and waves. My Auntie Oria would be on my side, she always was, and she had a way with my Uncle Quillan. If she agreed that this was something I should do, she would be able to convince my uncle. . .I hoped. I still had to get the guts to finalise the payment for flights.
Dark brown eyes stared at my reflection with a slightly disapproving look. Next time I would buy the tickets, I promised myself. But the look in my own eyes was disbelieving. Who was I kidding? With my aunt on my side or not, my uncle would never let me go and while my mother had always said I should follow my heart whenever I broached the subject with her, I knew it hurt her. It hurt me to. I loved home but there was an itch that I couldn't scratch no matter what I attempted to distract myself with. I'd put it off since I'd left school, three years was a long time to procrastinate.
Pushing myself to my feet to glare angrily at myself, I cursed having taken after the dark eyes and hair of the wanderer's. My eyes should have been green, like my father's, maybe if I had more of him in me than my mother then travelling would be no more than a silly dream I had.
My eyes flicked to the photo of him above my bookcase.
"Wish me luck, dad," I mumbled before I left my bedroom to face my mother.
I took the stairs two at a time with less grace than I possessed and smiled happily at my unamused mother who stood by the kitchen door. I could tell she had been about to call on me again and I grinned at haven beaten her to it.
"Do you have to thump about all the time?" she scolded, throwing a dish cloth at me.
Grinning, I shook my head. "No. Not all the time."
"Cheeky pup," she muttered. "Please set the table before Quillan and Oria get here."
Giving her a salute that had her rolling her eyes, I got to work as she asked. My gaze was more focused on the bright springtime sun that shone through the window than the way I was laying cutlery haphazardly on the table. France would be warmer than here in the summer, and then I could make my way along to Italy, hitting Rome, Venice, maybe even all the way down to Pompeii before making my way to Germany, Hungary and Romania.
I missed the table completely and a fork clattered to the floor. My mother only sighed as I bent to pick it up. She was used to the sound of me dropping something, or bumping into things, and had long since stopped asking me if I was okay. The phone tucked into my back pocket chimed and I took it out to see a text from Oria, my aunt.
"They're on their way, mum. They're leaving the kids home so they can have a quiet meal." I relayed.
My mum chuckled, turning to face me. "I thought they would. I hear little Jamie has been giving them quite a bit of trouble."
I laughed. She was right. I'd babysat not too long ago and while my cousin Maebh slept quite happily through the night now, and was quiet even during the day, Jamie was a terror 24/7. No amount of teeth and claw from the pack kept him in line. They'd need to find a new babysitter once I left, and few dared because of Jamie's behaviour. Guilt twisted at my stomach but I pushed it down. Jamie was not my pup, nor was Maebh, they weren't my responsibility. That had been something I'd voiced at our last family dinner. . .
I hoped this meal would end a little bit better than our last one that had finished with arguing and shouting. My uncle was trying to push me to make a plan for my life and forget about leaving to 'gallivant around the globe' as he'd put it. My mother insisted I'd find my way on my own, and Oria had gotten upset when our harsh words had risen in volume. I'd felt bad of course, I knew some of her past and frightening her was the last thing I'd meant to do.
"Fenna, love, don't think on it too much. You know Oria wasn't upset with you, and you made it up to them both by babysitting for a few days," my mother soothed, fussing around me. "Your uncle is just protective, he wants what's best for you."
"How do you always know what I'm thinking?" I asked, genuinely curious.
I think she knew what I was going to announce tonight as well.
She tapped my nose and winked. "Because I'm your mother."
I smiled at her answer and she sighed, her hand going to my cheek. "You're getting harder to read, you know. The older you get the more I feel like you don't need me so much anymore."
"Of course I still need you, mum. Who would fight Uncle Quillan for me?" I teased, nuzzling my head into her hand.
She chuckled, moving away to check on the food in the oven. Strong spices hit my nose and my mouth watered, I already thinking about eating. I finished setting the table and then sat down to flick through the pictures I'd saved on my phone. I'd gotten as far as actually planning the whole trip this time, saving images from every place I'd visit. I sighed, dropping my phone on the table.
My wallowing was cut short by the knock on the door but Quillan never waited for us to answer before he came in.
My mother stood, brushing back strays of dark hair before giving her brother a grin. He grinned back, scooping her up into a hug. His reputation would be ruined if the pack could see how he was here.
"It smells good in here, Maya," he complimented.
"You must have a sixth sense, you always arrive just as it's ready." She joked, motioning for my aunt and uncle to take a seat while she went to dish out the food.
Oria smiled as she sat across from me, "Fenna can do the same trick. She arrived to babysit just as I'd finished some baking."
"I was already nearby, and I couldn't let the cookies go to waste," I laughed. "I know Uncle Quillan doesn't eat them."
My mother laid a plates of food down in front of our guests before fetching ours and finally taking a seat herself. Tonight's meal was a personal favourite of mine, chicken and roast vegetables soaked in a blend of spices and sauces that my mother kept secret. The room was quiet as we all started to eat, and like I always I moaned at the flurry of tastes that hit my tongue.
"So good, mum," I grinned, "Like always."
"Thank you, dear," She smiled.
I paused to pour myself a glass of wine, filling it a little more than was probably acceptable but wine was my guilty pleasure. Quillan eyed my glass but said nothing. He'd long since given up trying to make me stop what he saw as a bad habit even though I knew he was partial to a glass of whisky.
We ate in almost silence after that, only a few words shared as we dig into the meal. Of course the peace couldn't last though.
"Have you thought anymore about going to university or finding a job around the pack?" Quillan asked, causing tension to strain around the table.
Oria gave him an unimpressed look that he ignored and I stabbed at a piece of pepper. It always came back to this, to what I was going to do with my future. I knew he was only worried about me, the upbringing he and my mother had was unstable, and for my uncle it hadn't ended well. He didn't want me to struggle to find my place in the world like he had.
"I've thought about it," I said simply, refusing to look up from my plate.
Sighing heavily, I took a long sip of wine and tried to think of an answer that wouldn't erupt in another family argument.
"It's not for me. I barely scraped through high school, I don't want to put that pressure on myself," I answered honestly in the hopes of appeasing him.
"And that's okay, it's not for everyone. I never even completed school and I've managed just fine," Oria quickly added, placing a hand on her mate's arm.
"She knows she needs to do something but she's young, let her enjoy life for a while longer before you start pressuring her to join your scouts or hunting team," My mother said. "Besides, you're lucky she isn't doing anything too time consuming or you'd lose your on demand babysitter."
I was glad they were both on my side. Alone, it was hard to argue with my uncle and I found myself getting so flustered and annoyed with him, I often forgot my own argument.
Quillan allowed himself to laugh at my mum's joke. "That's very true."
Relaxing again now that the tension had eased, I carried on eating. Dare I tell them all my plan, I wondered, was it worth another fight? I had the money, and I'd already spoken to Alpha Roarke about getting permission to leave, and for him to call ahead to any packs near where I am visiting so I'd have safe places to stay.
My mother's eyes were on me, almost as if she knew what I was thinking. Taking a deep breath, I willed myself to find the bravery.
"Actually, I might not be available for babysitting for a while. . ." I trailed off, suddenly finding the label on the bottle of wine the most interesting thing in the room.
Oria looked up. "Oh?"
"I've spoken with our Alpha and I have his blessing and permission. I'm going to travel. I want to see the world before I'm bound to the pack. I've planned everything, spoken with various other packs and I've saved enough money now," I began, getting a little excited as I explained. "I'm going to visit Paris first."
Both my mother and Oria seemed happy for me, their smiles bright and genuine.
"I think this is something you need to do, dear. You come from a family of Wanderers, it was silly of us to expect you to stay here your whole life," my mother said approvingly.
Despite her confident words, I could see the worry she was doing her best to hide. My uncle noticed too.
"You know how dangerous that life is for our kind, Maya," he growled, his hands turning to fists on the table. "It's not safe."
"I'm not going to travel the world forever, Uncle. I'm just going on. . .a long holiday. I'll come back, I'll be safe. Honest. I've thought of everything," I promised.
"You can't possibly have thought of everything! Anything can happen out there, Fenna. You're not going and that's final," he stated firmly, only relaxing when he saw how tense Oria was. "We should have nipped your obsession with running away in the bud when you were a pup."
A growl rumbled from my chest, unhappy with another telling me how to handle my own future. I was a female without a mate, my life was my own to do with as I pleased.
"It's not up to you, I'm a fully grown she-wolf, I can make my own decisions," I snapped, standing from the table, letting the full force of my own dominance out and showing him how strong I was.
My uncle had trained me to fight since birth. He'd taught me to never lower my head, to submit to none who was weaker than I, no matter their rank in the pack. Between my mother and him, I'd been brought up a warrior and I knew how fierce I could be. Having my uncle doubt me in front of my family felt like a punch to the gut. I tilted my chin up, refusing to submit to him, even as my body trembled under the weight of his power. He was Beta for a reason.
My uncle appraised me with calculating eyes. He didn't so much as flinch at my show of fang, there was nothing I could do that would make him take me seriously at all it seemed.
My mother sighed heavily when her brother stood to make a show of my insubordination, and I readied myself to put up a fight.
"She's right," Oria spoke up suddenly, her voice soft.
Quillan immediately turned to her with a look a betrayal. She placed a small, pale hand on his and his clenched fist relaxed.
"I needed the pack to grow into myself when I first came here, do you remember? Fenna needs to do what she feels she has to so she can settle just like we did. Not everybody's journey is the same, Quillan. Wouldn't you rather she left with our support and knowing she could reach out to us if she needed help rather than have her leave while you still fight? Because she's your niece and she's very much like you, she won't wait for you to change your mind before going," she warned him.
His hand lifted so he could brush his knuckles gently against her cheek and the secret smile she gave him was something I'd seen before. My uncle murmured something by her ear that had her skin flushing before facing me again. I kept my features determined.
"You promise me you have every aspect of this trip planned out, that you have contacted every pack whose land you may have to cross for their permission to do so?" he asked firmly, his expression creased and tense.
I laughed. "Of course I have, Uncle. I can even give you the dates of when I'll be staying with certain packs and you can call them to make sure I arrive safe and sound."
It was meant to be a joke but my mother and uncle took it seriously and both demanded an itinerary of my entire trip. Oria watched with a small smile that widened as I rolled my eyes in exasperation as I settled calmly back in my seat.
"Be thankful, niece. This might be the only way either of them will let you leave," she teased.
I bristled. I was a mature she-wolf, nobody let me do anything. I made my own choices. My aunt's lips twitched as she watched me and I sat up straighter.
My mother and uncle were still discussing my travels so I finished my glass of wine and decided to leave them to it for a minute.
Standing, I began to clear away the plates and take them to the kitchen. Piling everything into the dishwasher, a thrill of exhilaration sent a shiver up my spine. I'd finally gotten everyone on board and now the only thing stopping me from going was my own nerves. I had to be stronger if I was going to do this because my Uncle's fears weren't completely unfounded. It would be dangerous, there could be trouble on the road. Other Wanderers, feral wolves, vampires, evil witches that lived in gingerbread houses. . .
"Stop it," I muttered to myself. "You're scaring yourself."
A tap on the kitchen window almost had the last plate slipping from my hand to smash on the floor. Peering into the dark, two glowing blue eyes and the grinning face of Kailum appeared. Shaking my head in amusement, I opened the window.
"You could have knocked on the door," I told him, only for his grin to widen.
"And miss your hackles risinwg like a frightened cat? Never!" he cried, leaning against the wall, blond curls falling into his eyes.
I smirked, my gaze flicking towards the dining room where my mother, uncle and aunt's voices could be heard. "You just know my Uncle is here and he frightens you."
Kailum scoffed but his cheeks went red. "I'm not scared of him."
"Ever since he caught you stealing a kiss from me and chased you home, you've been avoiding him like the plague," I argued teasingly.
His cheeks went a darker shade of red. We both knew I was right, even if that incident had been many years ago when we were both still pups. We'd tried dating in our teens, but it had never felt right to me. Kailum was my friend, more like an older brother than someone I wanted to take as a mate.
"Are you coming to the pub or are you going to stay here and haver? It's your leaving do after all," he said.
I hushed him, clamping my hand over his mouth and his blue eyes glittered in amusement. "I only just got my Uncle on board with the idea of me leaving, if he finds out I've had it planned for so long that there's a leaving party for me, he'll be upset."
I didn't remove my hand until he nodded.
"I'll go tell them I'm going out for a bit, come inside while I get ready - through the front door not the God damn window, Kailum!" I ordered with a laugh when he made a move to climb in.
Giving me another cheeky grin, he disappeared to head to the front door. I chuckled to myself as I wandered back to the dining room, the sound coming to an abrupt stop at the look my uncle was giving me.
"I heard voices," he said, narrowing his eyes.
I smiled, shrugging just as Kailum let himself in. He could pretend all he wanted that he wasn't afraid of my uncle but I noticed the way his shoulders hunched and his head stayed lowered. Oria smiled warmly at him. "Hello, Kailum."
"Beta's," he greeted, shuffling his way towards me.
I also didn't miss the way my uncle's gaze flicked between us both, searching for something that wasn't there. My mother gave him a look and my uncle mumbled something beneath his breath.
"We're going to the pub for a bit," I told them, shoving Kailum in the direction of my room to save him from the many questions my family would ask him if I left him alone with them while I got ready.
My mother nodded. "Don't be back too late."
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes again and tell her that I was fully grown and could stay out as late as I liked. I still lived under her roof, and as long as I did, I would submit to the will of my mother-wolf. Kailum was eager to leave the room and he could read the teasing remark I had for him in my eyes without me having to say a word.
"Leave your bedroom door open," my uncle ordered roughly.
"Quillan," Oria warned quietly.
I gave her a grateful smile and turned a smug gaze to my uncle whose eyes were still focused on the cowering male in front of me. Giving Kailum another guiding shove, we finally escaped to my bedroom. Kailum collapsed onto my bed while I went to look for a change of clothes.
"He seems more tense than usual tonight," Kailum muttered.
Laughing, I swapped my shirt for a nice blouse. "He's coming to terms with the fact that I'm leaving and he can't stop me."
"You're really going then?"
I paused, frowning. When I turned around he was watching me, crystal eyes wide and shimmering. "Yes."
He didn't say anything else and I grabbed a pair of boots before adding a little makeup. I knew he wasn't a fan of the idea either, but I was beginning to think that he, like everybody else, was sure I would change my mind and end up settling down in the pack. I felt myself bristling ever so slightly, my wolf growling in my head. Why did everyone doubt me so much? My Alpha seemed to be the only one certain that this was what I needed to do.
"Don't be mad with me, Fenna," Kailum sighed, pushing himself up. "It's not that I didn't think you would go through with it, I'm just going to miss you."
My anger dissipated immediately, my shoulders slumping as I turned to face him again. He was picking at a loose thread on my bedding, unable to meet my gaze.
"I'll miss you too, Kailum. You know that. But it won't be forever, maybe not even a year. I have to do this, it's like an itch under my skin and I can't ignore it anymore. Whether it's because travelling is in my blood or something else, I need to find whatever's tugging at me," I explained softly, even though I knew he could never really understand.
Kailum was a pack wolf. He'd never left the territory before, except to visit the city, and he probably never would. I knew it was partially because of the trauma he'd faced as a pup, not that I'd ever say so. it was another reason I held no interest in him as a mate. As sweet as Kailum was, the feral part of me demanded a strong mate, an equal.
"I have to do this for myself," I repeated, more firmly this time and he nodded, finally lifting his head.
Okay. Are you ready to go?"
"Almost," I murmured, knowing what I had to do before we left.
Taking a deep breath, I marched over to my laptop and switched it back on. Kailum came to peer over my shoulder and he was grinning as I was when the page loaded. Without another thought, I made sure the tickets for my flights and trains were all correct, and clicked the button I was too afraid to earlier.